Your Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Started with Forum Marketing
BY: WAYNE LIEW ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2012
With so many social networks on the Internet these days, forums are often forgotten by businesses despite the fact that many of them still have strong communities and ongoing discussions on a wide variety of topics.
Forums are very different than modern social networks. For example, broadcasting yourself on Facebook or Twitter is absolutely acceptable. However, talking about yourself will get you cold shoulders from other forum members and you might be even taking the risk of being labeled as a spammer by forum administrators.
Even if the word "forum" is completely new to you, don't worry. In this article, you are going to get a list of foolproof tips that you can use to get started with forum marketing.
Identifying the Right Forum
Simply do a search for "keyword + forum" to come up with a list of forums that are relevant to your business. The keyword can be words that describe the industry that you are in or it can be words that describe your potential customers.
Once you have a list of forums, you should visit and browse through the discussions that each of them has. Pay attention to the following criteria as it will help you decide whether a forum is worth your time:
1. Forum Activity: Are the forum members active? When was the latest thread or reply published? Avoid forums that are inactive or those that are filled with spam activity.
2. Culture: How do forum members typically interact with one another? Are most of the replies factual? Is humor or sarcasm the norm of the community? Understanding all these will help you in deciding whether engaging in a particular forum is a good idea.
3. Rules: What policy do these forums have for self-promotion? Are there any rules on forum signatures? Reading through the rules will prevent your account from getting banned unknowingly.
Set Up a Solid Profile
Forum members are going to know you by your profile. Always complete your profile or at least try to fill it up with as much information as possible.
Pay particular attention to the signature column because what you key in here will be attached to every single post you make. The signature should include the name of your business, your position, tagline, a link to your website as well as other contact information.
Choose your username and avatar (or profile picture) wisely. Avoid using solely the name of your company even though you are representing it. Forums are all about human interaction so using a human name will remove the barrier of interaction between you and other members.
The best practice for a forum account username that is representing a business often contains the first name of the person on your staff with the branding of your business. A good example is Tina @ FastTrucks. As for the avatar, use a smiling portrait of the person on your staff with a small logo of your business by the corner.
Do keep in mind that some forums prohibit new users from inserting an avatar, forum signature or advanced information. A post count threshold is often imposed so you need to update your profile from time to time as your level of interaction on the forums increases.
Publish Elaborative and Helpful Responses
Refrain yourself from promoting your products or services right away. Browse around the forums to find discussions that you can provide useful insights and add value to. Answering questions and providing solutions to problems that other members have will quickly establish yourself as an expert in the forums.
Always remember that spending a lot of time answering a small number of questions with high quality responses is always better than posting short comments all over the place that don't add any actual value.
Generate Quality Discussions
Asking useful questions allows you to know more about members on the website. If you frequently create threads that become hot topics in forums, you will grab the attention of forum administrators, influential active users or moderators. This is highly useful for future networking and collaboration opportunities.
Connect with Forum Members Individually
If the main goal of your forum marketing campaign is to generate leads or sales, this is an important step.
Using the private messaging system, always try to establish a deeper connection with forum members that interacted with you. If one of the members is suffering from a problem that your business is able to solve, you can consider following up with an introduction to your products or services after answering to his or her thread publicly.
Apart from the members, you should consider connecting with influencers, moderators and administrators on the forums too. Offer your help whenever possible. Taking up moderation duties (if it doesn't require a lot of time), sponsoring forum activities and contributing editorial content are some ways you can help a forum out.
Measure Your Success
Always determine your goal before starting out with forum marketing as it can be very time consuming. Having a tracking mechanism in place will also let you know which forums to focus more of your efforts on and which to focus on less.